November 03, 2012

Maybe the North Koreans have a point

Hey, I saw a terrible movie on the plane last night, although, mercifully, the sound was off.  Step Up Revolution is Singin' in the Rain meets Battleship Potemkin.  And not in a good way.  As I tried to chew through the restraints, I got the impression that the plot of the film was rather thin.  This was a mistake - Huffington Post provides this concise summary:
After dancing its way across Baltimore and New York City in previous iterations, "Step Up" moves to Miami, where homeboys Sean (Ryan Guzman) and Eddy (Misha Gabriel) have been best buds since toddler-hood and now lead a local dance flash mob known as, well, "The Mob," just to keep things simple. Together with their crew, including choreographers, visual artists and a DJ, the guys have been busting out surprise dance numbers all over Miami and shooting video to compete in a YouTube contest to win $1 million. 
Sean's day job as a waiter at a luxury hotel helps support his dance habit and pay the rent on the house he shares with his single-mom sister (Megan Boone) and niece. When Emily Anderson (Kathryn McCormick) turns up at the hotel – owned by her father Bill (Peter Gallagher), a ruthless real-estate developer – for a summer of bartending while preparing to audition for a coveted spot with a high-toned local dance company, attraction inevitably sparks between the two. 
As it turns out, aloof Emily needs Sean's help more than she suspects. Seems that the dance company director (Mia Michaels) thinks Emily is a talented performer but wound a bit too tightly to be truly creative. So if she wants to make it onto the roster, Emily is going to need some new moves, which she figures Sean can help deliver once she discovers he's one of the motivators behind The Mob. After her video debut, a sexy number in a crowded, fancy restaurant, draws millions of hits online, Emily's brought on with the group as they plan their next outrageous "mission." 
However there's one major obstacle looming over the pair's romantic bliss and professional success: Emily's dad is determined to build a new luxury development after razing the multiracial community where Sean lives and hangs out with other Mob members. Although Sean agrees to keep Emily's identity concealed while she rehearses and performs with his crew, if word gets out, his street cred will be totally shot, which could complicate that business about winning the YouTube video contest. Emily has another idea, though, encouraging Sean and The Mob to stand up to her dad's development plans with some proactive dance interventions.

I think that exhausts the tropes, except they missed the opportunity to have his sister, Mary Louise, need an operation that could only be funded by having him die so his song would be a hit.  But they can get to that in the next one.

I may I have mentioned that it's not a good movie.  The dancing, however, is excellent.  If you like this modern style dancing these kids do nowadays, here's the opening scene.

It did get me thinking about the political power of song and dance, which, let's be honest, is fairly easy to dismiss.  Chairman Mao did not say "political power comes from a well-executed triple step," after all.  But I see Cracked has explored the topic further, and concluded that it is not only a potent force, it might have been the downfall of the Sumerians.
I think the conclusion is unavoidable: Psy (And boy, doesn't his name sound more ominous now?) is a linguistic hacker, and his masterpiece "Gangnam Style" is the music equivalent of herpes. It has reprogrammed our brains at a deep subconscious level, to make us ride imaginary horses.

Fortunately for all of us, Psy's intentions are benign and centered on fun.  Or so he says.

There is a neo-Platonistic, or perhaps Jungian question in there, however.  Is there some ultimate song deep in our subconscious that we are longing to hear...and when we hear it, will we break out into a rapturous dance we already know, but do not know we know?  Is the dance of life trapped in us, waiting for the keymaster to release us into throes of Dionysian (in the hedonistic sense, not the cthonic) ecstasy?

Of course not.  Of course not.  We are not automatons.  We are not some latent virus waiting to be activated.  We are rational agents in a world of concrete and specific opportunity, empowered by scientific powers of the highest order.

And let the universe tremble at our power.


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